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. Iran asks EU and Russia to respect its enrichment right
TEHRAN (AFP) Mar 19, 2005
Iran has asked the European Union and Russia to respect its right to enrich uranium, an activity the EU is trying to convince Iran to give up to ensure it is not producing nuclear weapons.

"We hope these countries will be honestly committed to what they have said and respect Iran's right to have a fuel cycle and practically prove that in the steering committee meeting on March 24," said foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi in a statement Saturday.

Asefi was reacting to Friday declarations in Paris during a summit of French and Russian presidents Jaques Chirac and Vladimir Putin, German Chancellor Gerhard Shroeder and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.

"No country should be deprived of peaceful nuclear technology," Asefi said.

Iran "has repeatedly announced it is not seeking mass destruction weapons and its peaceful nuclear activities are totally for non-military purposes," he asserted.

Britain, France and Germany have been negotiating for the EU with Iran since December to secure "objective guarantees" that the regime will not use its atomic energy programme to acquire nuclear weapons.

Ideally, the European Union would like Iran permanently to give up uranium enrichment, which makes what can be fuel for civilian nuclear reactors but also the explosive core of atomic bombs.

In exchange, the three European governments are offering Iran a package of trade, security and technology incentives.

Iran insists it does not even consider abandoning enrichment to be on the table in the talks, despite its having temporarily suspended enrichment as a confidence-building measure.

A new round of negotiations is due to start in Paris on Wednesday. A steering committee has to evaluate work done since December and decide how negotiations can go on.

Schroeder and Chirac said on Friday they saw "no contradiction" between Europeans' efforts and Russia's nuclear cooperation with Iran.

Russia is currently building Iran's first nuclear plant in Bushehr and is to provide it with enriched uranium.

"Russia ships fuel and takes it back. The fuel is not processed, nor is it enriched and cannot be enriched in Iran," Schroeder said at a press conference following the summit.

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